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Prehistoric Period to 18th Century

“This land of Arizona has had an exciting history, so dramatic and inspiring that it needs no exaggeration or fictional embellishment.” ~Barry Goldwater

2000 BC – Cochise Culture develops in what is now southern Arizona. The Cochise people introduce agriculture to Arizona, growing vegetable crops including corn.

1000 BC-1000 AD – Anasazi culture develops on the Colorado Plateau.

700-1000 A.D. – Anasazi culture develops into its Pueblo Period in which they build complex structures and ceremonial chambers.

300 BC – The Hohokam settled in south central Arizona and built irrigation canals.

500 AD – Sinagua people are farming near San Francisco Peaks.

1064 AD – Sunset Crater erupted.

1150 AD – The myth of Cibola and Seven Cities of Gold originated when the Moors conquered Mérida, Spain. According to legend, seven bishops fled the city, not only to save their own lives but also to prevent the Muslims from obtaining gold, gems, and sacred religious relics. A rumor circulated that in a far away land—a place unknown to the people of that time—the seven bishops had founded seven cities. These cities supposedly grew very rich, mainly from gold and precious stones. This idea fueled many expeditions in search of the mythical cities during the following centuries.

700-1100 AD – The Hopi pueblo village of Oraibi was founded, making it the oldest continuously inhabited town in Arizona (and along with Taos and Acoma Pueblos of New Mexico, one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in America).

1100-1500 – The Navajo and Apache Indians began arriving in Arizona. These nomadic peoples apparently lived in harmony with the existing Anasazi until the latter’s disappearance or assimilation.

1275 AD – A great drought began and lasted until 1299 AD.

1300 AD – Casa Grande is built near the Gila River.

1400 AD – Cultural decline of various pre-historic groups. Hohokam culture disappears.

16th Century

1527-1536 – Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, an early Spanish explorer of the New World, and Esteban Dorantes, a Moorish slave, were shipwrecked off the coast of present-day Texas. During their eight-year-long trek to Mexico City, they encountered natives along the way who told them about cities with great riches. Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan friar, supposed that the stories pertained to the “Seven Cities of Cíbola.”

1528-1821 – Spanish Period

1538-39 – Marcos De Niza led an expedition to find Cibola and took Esteban as his guide. They entered what is now Arizona near the New Mexico border. Continuing northward, they met the people of Zuni in west-central New Mexico who coincidentally did have seven pueblo cities. Estevan was killed by Zuni Indians and Fray Marcos abandoned the mission after visiting only one village, but believed he saw in the distance what appeared to be a city as great as Tenochtitlan, capital of the conquered Aztec empire, shimmering in the sunlight.

1540-42 – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a large armored military expedition to take possession of the wealthy city that the monk had described. Coronado claimed all of the land as part of New Spain and conquered the Zuni pueblo. Coronado sent Pedro de Tovar to lead an expedition westward, and they visited the Hopi pueblos. García López de Cárdenas left from there in search of a river that the Hopi had spoken about, and was the first European to view the Grand Canyon. Coronado continued eastward on his epic journey, discovering the Rio Grande and continuing as far east as the Great Plains of Kansas.

1558 – Marcos died in disgrace, everyone having blamed him for leading Coronado’s army on a fruitless quest.

1598-99 – Juan de Onate, the first governor of Spain’s New Mexico territory, led colonists up the Rio Grande and established El Paso del Norte and a fort at Santa Fe.

17th Century

1609 – Santa Fe is established as the capital of New Mexico.

1629 – Franciscans, the first Europeans to live in Arizona, tried to establish missions in the north around the Hopi, but their venture failed.

1680 – A Pueblo rebellion against the Spanish drove the colonists, priests, and soldiers out of New Mexico.

1691 – Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit priest, established Mission Tumacacori, the first European settlement in Arizona.

1692 – Diego de Vargas goes north to reclaim earlier settlements in New Mexico.

18th century

1700 – San Xavier del Bac Mission (White Dove of the Desert) was founded by Father Kino. Father Kino also named and mapped the Rio de Salado (Salt River).

1706 – Diego de Vargas established a new fort at Albuquerque.

1694 – Father Kino established San Xavier del Bac mission.

1736 – Tubac becomes the cornerstone for the first actual European town in Arizona. Spanish colonists settled here, irrigating and farming the lands along the Santa Cruz River and raising cattle, sheep and goats on the northern frontier of Spain’s New World empire. Large chunks and pieces of silver were found on the ground near a mining camp called Arizonac.

1751 – Pima Indians revolted against the harsh discipline of Jesuit missionaries, destroying the small settlement at Tubac.

1752 – The Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac was founded. The fifty cavalrymen garrisoned at this remote military post were to prevent further rebellion, protect the colonists, and further explore the Southwest.

1767 – The Spanish government expelled the Jesuits and replaced them with Franciscans.

1775 – A Spanish presidio (fort) is established at Tucson as a result of unrest among the Pima and Tohono O’odahm Indians, as well as raids by the nomadic Apache.

1776 – The Tubac garrison was moved to Tucson, and the unprotected settlers abandoned their homes. Father Sara established 21 Spanish missions along the California coast. Juan Batista de Anza explored a land route from Tucson over to the California missions. He proceeded northward up the coast, resulting in the founding of San Francisco. Anza also left fifty soldiers and priests at the Yuma crossing of the Colorado River to establish a mission there.

1781 – Yuma Indians massacred all of the Spaniards at the Yuma Crossing.

1785-1802 – Spanish troops campaign against the Apache and work out a peace. Mining, ranching, and missions prosper in Arizona until the Indian uprisings start again.

19th Century >>>


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